"Final Flight of the Osiris" is a short computer-animated film, the opening segment of the Animatrix. Unlike the other Animatrix shorts, Final Flight ties directly into the plot of "The Matrix Reloaded", setting the scene for the invasion of Zion. As part of the campaign to ramp up audience excitement for the release of Reloaded, Final Flight was attached to copies of "Dreamcatcher" for all its US showings.


"THE TECHNIQUE"

The animation in "Final Flight" is jaw-dropping. It is far and away the best computer animation I have ever seen. Produced by Square, who also brought us "Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within", Final Flight is a quantum leap forward from that film. The characters in the short's opening sequence, a bullet-time katana duel between a man and a woman, are completely realistic. You know they are computer graphics in the same way you knew Carrie-Ann Moss didn't really jump off a roof in the original Matrix. But there's no way that you could tell it from the animation. These people are flawless.

The exterior shots are equally well done, looking every bit as convincing as the blend of miniatures and CG that was used in the actual Matrix movies.

The secondary characters don't have quite the same realism. Although they are very well done, they seem a little stiff. But they don't really have to do much except look worried and run like hell for the gun turrets, so it isn't a major problem.

The music that drives Final Flight is a wonderful piece by Juno Reactor. Taken from their 1997 album Bible of Dreams, it is called Conga Fury. Much of Juno Reactor's music seems tailor-made for use in action movie soundtracks, especially movies like the Matrix trilogy where the action is highly stylized and almost dance-like. Another Reactor piece was used in the Animatrix segment "Kid's Story". It seems the Wachowskis are fans.


"THE STORY" (OR "HOW TO GET YOUNG MALE EYEBALLS INTO A MOVIE THEATER")

Plotwise, there isn't much to "Final Flight". It opens with a katana duel in a practice dojo like the one where Morpheus taught Neo about defying gravity in the first film. This duel is pretty much the whole point of the movie, and the duel itself is pretty much a showcase for brilliant animation. The duellists seem to be lovers, and as the fight gets more intense they start slicing each other's clothes off piece by piece. Rather silly, I'm sure, but beautiful nonetheless. When both of the duellists are about to lose their last pieces of clothing, they are of course yanked out of the training program by another crew member. He tells them their hovercraft (or whatever it is those Matrix ships are supposed to be) is being chased by hundreds of Sentinels.

From here on out, it's nothing but chase. The hovercraft runs through the same sort of titanic sewers the Nebuchadnezzar ran through in the first movie, and eventually goes up to the surface and the site of an enormous Machine monster protected by a swarm of thousands of Sentinels. Ultimately the protagonists realise that some sort of invasion force is being readied to strike at Zion, the last refuge of free humans. Somebody has to be inserted into the Matrix to warn Zion before the hovercraft is overrun by sentinels.

Will the valiant freedom fighters make it to the drop point in time? Will they manage to fight off the hordes of Sentinels? Even before Reloaded was released, there wasn't a whole lot of suspense in this segment. Even if you haven't seen Reloaded, you know Zion has to survive somehow, because if there aren't any free humans there isn't any story. And the second question is answered pretty clearly by the name of the film. "Final Flight" isn't something you're going to watch for the suspense. But as a technical showcase, it is absolutely superb, and as a teaser for "The Matrix Reloaded", it was one of the best ever. The Wachowskis could not have done a better job.

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